Venezuela high court denies attempt to extend legislative term

The Supreme Court of Venezuela invalidated a motion by the National Assembly on Wednesday to extend its term an additional year in light of the December 6, 2020, parliamentary elections. The National Assembly is currently controlled by the opposition party led by speaker Juan Guaidó. Most of the opposition parties boycotted the December elections on the grounds that it would not be conducted in a free and fair manner.

The Great Patriotic Pole, a party consisting of allies to Nicolas Maduro, won 67.6 percent of the votes in December’s election, according to Indira Alfonso, President of the National Electoral Council. However, it was also reported that only 31 percent of eligible voters cast their votes, only half the turnout of the previous elections held in 2015. Later, the opposition rejected the results as “illegitimate” and voted to extend their term in the National Assembly.

The Supreme Court held that any action by the outgoing lawmakers “with the purpose of perpetuating, extending or continuing their status as National Assembly lawmakers” will be “lacking in judicial validity and effect.”

In the 2015 elections, the opposition was voted into the Assembly with a landslide victory. But two years later, the legislative body was supplanted by Maduro through the creation of a parallel body called the National Constituent Assembly filled with his supporters. The National Assembly is the last institution controlled by the opposition and is now set for takeover by Maduro and his allies.

After becoming the speaker in 2018, Guaidó invoked Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution to declare the presidency vacant on grounds of Maduro’s election being “neither free nor fair”. With the opposition’s support, Guaidó swore himself in as interim president on January 23, 2019. Maduro remained in control of the government institutions but many foreign countries recognised Guaidó’s claim. After the court decision, Guaido’s claim to the presidency will also be in limbo as he will no longer be the speaker of the National Assembly.

The new legislators are expected to be sworn in on January 5, 2021. Many Western democracies such as the United States, Canada, and Germany, as well as the European Union, have denounced the December elections.